|Beyond Images - Briefing 6
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
ISRAEL'S RIGHT TO EXIST: Actions speak louder than words
|London - published 30 July 2002
Palestinians have already recognised Israel. They amended
their national covenant in the late 1980s to remove references
to the destruction of Israel; and acknowledged Israel's
right to exist under the Oslo Accords of 1993. Israel
is the stronger party, and its demand that the Palestinians
"recognise" them before peace can be achieved
is Israeli paranoia.
Recognition needs to be reflected in actions not just
It is reasonable for Israel to require
that it be recognised as a precondition for reaching a peace
and coexistence deal. Palestinian recognition on paper (which
is highly debatable anyway given the convoluted way they amended
their national covenant in the 1990s) is belied by their current
ideology and political culture.
Recognition is not a matter of words alone
but of actions on the ground.
The Palestinian demand for a "right of return"
is incompatible with the continued existence of Israel
One of the clearest areas where recognition
on paper is contradicted by Palestinian policy is over their
demands for a complete “right of return”.
By most calculations, there are over three
million Palestinians who qualify as refugees across the Arab
world and beyond.
In the Oslo negotiations, and since, Palestinian
spokesmen have repeatedly demanded an unconditional right
of return to "Israel proper" for these refugees.
In January 2001 the Arab League confirmed that this unconditional
right was a "sacred right" of the Palestinians.
If the Palestinians exercise that right,
Israel as it is currently constituted would cease to exist
as a viable Jewish state - which is its entire raison d'etre.
They have refused to compromise on this
right to date. This refusal contradicts the claim that they
have “recognised Israel”.
By not yielding on the demand for an unlimited
"right of return" the Palestinians have also rejected
a two-state solution.
The Palestinian demand for the “right
of return” can only be fulfilled at the expense of Israel’s
Violent rejectionism is now the dominant ideology in Palestinian
In October 2000 the Palestinian Authority
gave a free hand to fanatical groups – such as Hamas
and Islamic Jihad - who make no secret of their desire to
kill Israelis and destroy the country. Giving them freedom
to operate was completely inconsistent with recognition of
Israel, and the effects of this disastrous move are still
How are attacks on Israelis in Rishon Lezion,
Netanya and Tel-Aviv supposed to convince Israelis that the
Palestinians recognise them?
According to an opinion survey in June
2002, conducted by a Palestinian research body, 51% of Palestinians
reject Israel's right to exist.
Most support suicide attacks on Israeli
civilians. Their leadership has done virtually nothing to
promote the concept of coexistence.
If this attitude is not adapted, then most
Israelis now fear that withdrawal of Israel from the West
Bank would simply offer terrorist groups a further opportunity
to threaten their citizens until the country supposedly “surrenders”.
Rejection of Israel Prevails in Palestinian Education,
Political Culture and the Media
The formation of Israel in 1948 is still
referred to as "the catastrophe" - Al Naqba - as
though the clock can be turned back to pre-1948.
Palestinian leaders still feed their people
the belief that they will one day be able to "return
home". The refusal to move beyond historical grievances,
and compromise their claims, indicates that they have not
come to terms with Israel yet.
Palestinian culture still characterises
the Israelis as colonianists, and as bad as the Nazis. Israelis
are dehumanised in their media. Dangerous and inflammatory
myths about Israeli are created and wildly disseminated.
Most Palestinians still deny any religious
connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel
(on which See Beyond Images Briefing 1 – The Unbreakable
There is no respect for Israel’s
rights. Reportedly, at the opening of the Camp David talks
in July 2000 the Palestinians asked for proof that the ancient
temple of King Solomon had existed in Jerusalem. Nothing in
Palestinian literature or culture corrects this basic form
of denial (in contrast to Israeli culture, which includes
in its open media many advocates of Palestinian dignity, history
Palestinians schools and universities,
for the most part, educate the younger generation that the
Israelis are the enemy.
Worst of all, Palestinian society has developed
a cult of death and martyrdom around the sustained suicide
bombing campaign, inciting young Palestinians to acts of extreme
violence, accompanied by nihilistic and ferocious expressions
of rage and hate. There is no language of remorse or self-reflection,
even as the failure of this violence to advance Palestinian
goals becomes clear.
The view of Israeli historian Benny Morris on Palestinian
It is sometimes claimed that Israel’s
demand for recognition mainly comes from those on the Israeli
right. To illustrate that this is incorrect, here is the view
of Benny Morris, a well-known Israeli academic who is deeply
disliked on the Israeli right because he has questioned the
conventional wisdom that Israel was not responsible for the
refugee problem in 1948:-
"The main problem is the Arab world's - and particularly
the Palestinians' - unwillingness to accept a Jewish state
on what they consider their land. They don't recognise the
legitimacy of Zionism and they deny the Jewish connection
to the land of Israel. Only the Arabs have a rightful claim
to this land, they say, and we're a bunch of thieves."
Interview with Eric Silver, Jewish Chronicle, London, March
Beyond Images Conclusions
It is the responsibility of the Palestinian
leadership, through education, cultural change and practical
diplomacy to recognise and accept Israel, and to educate the
Palestinian people on the consequences of that for their lives,
their hopes and their future.
- The Israeli people are ready to make deep sacrifices for peace,
but they need to feel that there is a partner “on the ground”
with whom they can do this. The conflict since October 2000 has
caused incalculable damage to this process.